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ECCC Road Season 2015-2016 Wrap-up

TL;DR: We had a great season, and we won the ECCC road championship! Look at that trophy!

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With the trophy!

The last three race weekends of our season were at Dartmouth/UVM, West Point, and our very own Beanpot, the ECCC championship weekend.  As it happens, these were also the first three races of my collegiate racing career, which is a little funny considering I graduated from undergrad 6 years ago now.  But cycling doesn’t follow NCAA eligibility, so old fogies like me can line up next to 19 year old kids and get dropped repeatedly.  But enough of the excuses, on to the races.

First, L’Enfer du Nord.  The defining characteristic of this weekend was COLD.  Finger-numbing, muscle-tightening, wind-blown cold.  I’ve never been so cold on a bike before.  It started snowing on the start line of my road race.  All weekend, there was a competition between teammates to get on the trainers, because it was the only way to stay warm.

We had 21 racers show up to compete in 4 events, an individual TT and criterium at Dartmouth, and a team time trial and road race at UVM.  The ITT (only 3.7 mi!) was my first race ever, and I had no idea how to pace myself.  The course started climbing, flattened out, then had a nasty uphill kick at the end to the finish.  I went too easy on the flats and too hard on the finishing climb, pretty ugly overall.  But other team members had good results: Phil was 2nd in Men’s B, the Jen/Julie/Corey took 3rd through 5th in Women’s A.

In the crit, I really shot myself in the foot.  I missed the first few calls to the start line, so I started waaaaaayyyy at the back, and I never recovered. Lesson learned.  The women’s A team spent the whole crit rotating attacks to thin out the opposition, and it paid off with Corey on the podium in 3rd.  Lucy won Women’s C with a solid sprint (this is going to become familiar).

Layered up at the start
Layered up at the start

We had an overnight transfer to UVM, then the morning TTT as a warmup/course recon for the later road race.  Men’s A was 3rd in the TTT, Women’s A won!  The whole TTT/road race course was incredibly exposed to the wind, and as I mentioned, absolutely freezing.  Oh, and did I mentioned, it started snowing?  Everyone lined up wearing about 5 layers, and right before the races kicked off, there was a shower of lycra, fleece, and down jackets to the roadside as everyone shed their outerwear.  The course ended in two back-to-back steep climbs with the finish line at the top.  In the Men’s D race, I stayed with the pack until our very own Charlie Barton decided he was bored off the pace, and put in a series of uphill attacks.  I got dropped, and floundered in no-man’s land until PK came up from behind.  We rode together to the line, picking off a few stragglers along the way.  Charlie ended up 3rd, the best result of the day for MIT.

Next up was the race at West Point.  They have the best lead/follow vehicles: enormous Humvees.  We had another big turnout for MIT, and great results.  There were three events: TTT, road race, and criterium.

As always, MIT dominated the TTT (a down-and-up course), with almost every team on their category’s podium, and Women’s A winning.  The road race featured a series of nasty climbs and one extremely fast downhill.  I was the only MIT rider in Men’s D that weekend, so I decided to start my own early break up the first climb.  Bad idea; I stayed away for half of the first lap but eventually got swallowed up and dropped.  After working with a few other riders, I recovered enough to finish mid-pack.  Everyone else on the team had much better results.  Youyang won Men’s C in a exhilarating uphill sprint (I got to watch from the finish line), Quinn won Men’s E solo in this first ever road race, and Katy was second in her first Women’s B race.

MIT women controlling the race
MIT women controlling the A/B race

The crit was a bit of a funny race on a triangular course next to West Point’s stadium.  The back straight had a clean line on smooth pacement and a dirty line on bumpy pavement and loose sand.  The pack never wanted to ride on the dirty line, so it was easy to make up positions up the inside if you were brave/stupid enough and didn’t mind the jarring ride.  I stayed near the front until the penultimate lap, when the leader crashed by himself on a innocuous part of the course.  The crash caused a bit of a traffic jam, which I managed to navigate without incident.  As a result, I found myself in a good position for the sprint, and I managed 5th for my first points.  Other results were mixed: Lucy won Women’s C (no surprise), Corey was 3rd in Women’s A, Quinn was 2nd in Men’s E, and poor Youyang busted his collarbone (glad to say he’s back to 100% now).

Last race of the ECCC season was our very own Beanpot, held this year in Turner’s Fall, MA.  We had a season-high 23 signups for racing, and even more volunteers who helped set up/tear down the course, wave flags, and drive lead/follow cars.  Points counted double, and the weekend omnium winner got a huge shiny trophy, so everyone was super motivated.

As usual, we monstered the TTT categories, with a flood of podiums and wins:  Women’s A and Men’s D (woohoo) won; Men’s B and Men’s A were 3rd.  This might be my only win ever, so I really savored it.

For some reason, we let Lucy design the road race course, which meant that it featured a monstrously steep (max gradient ~20%) dirt/gravel climb at the end of each lap.  BU named the Strava segment “s*** my pants” which pretty much sums it up.  Thanks Lucy!  We had a big group of MIT riders (6)  in Men’s D, so we could actually use some tactics.  Charlie went up the road early while Paul, Quinn, and I eased up at the front until everyone around us figured out what was going on.  Once we hit the dirt climb, all bets were off and the group totally shattered.  I caught back on to Tobi and Adam and a small chasing group the next lap with some heart-stopping descending (max speed ~50mph), and rode in mid-pack again.  Up the road, Paul finished 3rd and Charlie 5th.  In the other races, Phil had a great result in Men’s B, breaking away with a Yalie and finishing 2nd.

How did that feel Tobi?
How did that feel Tobi?

Finally, the last race of the season was our criterium, which featured a punchy climb every lap that really wore out the legs.  The packs thinned out quickly, and every race featured a large number of P&P.  I made it to the last lap, put in an attack on the hill, and barely managed to stay away from an UNH rider for 9th and the final points.  Paul/Quinn/Tobi finished 4/5/6 in Men’s D.  Everyone else finished respectably in their categories, but you could tell that everyone was exhausted from the long season.

MIT women lead the way
MIT women lead the way

Finally, it was time to announce the winners! Of the impromptu ECCC peep eating contest.  Gotta say, peeps aren’t something that you should try to speed eat, it’s too easy to choke.  I think UVM or Dartmouth won, but I was too busy trying to clear my airway.  And then, the drumroll for the championship weekend and the trophy presentation!  As you know already, we won!  It was a deserved reward for a tough season, and I’m proud to have played a part in it.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

Charles

Safety First!
Safety First!

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